It turns out the man who became an Internet sensation after a NYPD officer bought him a pair of Sketchers for has a home to go to, if he wanted.
Last week, New York Police Department Officer Lawrence DePrimo was photographed purchasing a pair of warm boots for Hillman, at the out-of-pocket cost of $75.
As more becomes known about the story, however, the feel-good holiday story has become a little more sour. The New York Daily News reports that Hillman has had an apartment in the Bronx for the past year: officials confirmed that the rent comes from a combination of Section 8 vouchers, Social Security disability and veterans benefits.
“Outreach teams from the Department of Homeless Services continue to attempt to work with him, but he has a history of turning down services,” said Barbara Brancaccio, a spokeswoman for the city agency.
The media attention showered on DePrimo, and by extension, Hillman, came as a shock to his family, who haven't heard from him in months.
"We love our brother very much,” Hillman’s brother, Kirk, of Nazareth, Pa., said. “Our door is always open to him, but this is a lifestyle he’s chosen.”
Hillman was tracked down by the New York Times, who found him again barefoot, fearing for his safety if he wore the now-famous shoes.
"Those shoes are hidden. They are worth a lot of money,” Hillman told the Times. “I could lose my life.”
Hillman told the Times he had been in New York for about a decade, most of which he spent living on the streets. He joined the Army in 1978 and served five years before being honorably discharged. Before moving to New York, he worked in kitchens in New Jersey.
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